There has been, shall we say, a revelation, one that has occurred to me with the issuance of this chapter, since by its very nature, its coming into being is simultaneous with my self-awareness. And upon my self-awareness, the narrative is affected. As a result, the climactic moment of the aforementioned revelation is become the present, and all other action leading up to this moment, the past. That is, until the moment and the narrative converge into one and the same once again.
Prelude to the present: Days (weeks? a moon?) had passed since the last time I’d encountered Beethoven. Antonia and I have fully installed all of the MTEs, which results in a single transparent plastic tubular maze running throughout my home, from room to hallway to room to walkway, snaking around the entire flat. Dozens of meters of interconnected MTEs have come to surround me in my apartment, maybe hundreds of meters, maybe even thousands the vaguer I keep it. Some portions are attached to walls, others the ceiling, a couple of bends rest on the floor. At a meter in width, the MTE setup allows Beethoven to move freely, even expressively. A morning some time ago I dried the final coat of epoxy on the interior of the guest room, loaded it with sand and brackish tabs, set out pails of new breeds (Rex sole, Dolly Varden trout, grunt sculpins), and unveiled the coral baskets. Then I sealed the doorway, filled the room with water, and linked it to the MTE corridor. This gave Beethoven the space it demanded. Beethoven named it Todeshöhle, which Electra heard as ‘toad-in-the-hole’ but really means The Death Lair. Chimpy estimated that Beethoven’s body by now must be longer than his.
In the lead-up to the chillfate moment happening right now involving me and Antonia upstairs having some fun with the new moths (vestals, crimson-speckled flunkeys, and rosy underwings), I had become utterly consumed by thoughts and feelings for her. I would not say that Antonia has moved in, but she spends as much time here as she likes and I want her here all the time. My houndstooth-clad schoolboyish neighbor in no. 9 has moved out, finally, and by now lives with either his boyfriend uptown or his great-uncle’s widow Griselda down in windmill country.
The revelatory moment that we’re considering at present only lasts a few seconds.
Let’s say the whole moment lasts seven seconds.
The first second. In the first second, I feel a rush of curiosity and joy like I did yesterday when I powwowed my menagerie to ceremoniously welcome in the new cultures of tardigrades. (Also referred to as moss piglets or water bears in common parlance.) I have twenty-six of them of various classes and orders, names pending. And they are astonishing. These tardigrades can withstand 1,000 times more radiation than any other animal in the known world. They can survive 6,000 times the pressure of our planet’s atmosphere, at either the top of a mountain or the bottom of an ocean trench, as well as endure prolonged exposure to a vacuum, or to unfiltered ultraviolet light. They can suspend their metabolism for decades if needed, can live within a temperature range spanning hundreds of degrees. They are microscopic and indestructible. The Frenchman now wears Boss and drives a Jaguar.
In the second second, I tell Antonia, Let me see your hands. She wasn’t here when the emu egg had hatched, and I wished she had been. Naomi has gotten to roam loose throughout the building and she’s become big and beautiful. The last tenant holdouts are nos. 20 and 21 on the seventh floor.
In the third second, I wave a black light wand before my hand, wiggle all six fingers, check front and back. I hadn’t realized how much invisible bee pollen was stuck to my hands when we had begun the new moth setups. The drapes are drawn, there is only black light present. My hand looks splattered with neon flecks and streaks as if I were guilty of a heinous crime.
Mother had called again, and we had had a good talk.
She’d said, O nilo lati tọrọ gafara fun u.
I will, I’d told her.
O nilo lati ṣèlérí.
O nilo lati sọ gbogbo awọn ọrọ.
I sighed like a tired boy and said, I promise I will apologize to Chimpy and the others for how rudely I spoke to them.
In the fourth, fifth, and sixth seconds of this most revelatory moment, I feel the weight of new things. A lot feels new. Antonia acts shy, mutters, Butt-eye-dough-one-two, and hides away her hands. Her vulnerability nowadays affects me deeply and always, it seems. She had told me that her mother has been deceased for years and that she never knew who her father was. That no one believed her young mother was expecting given how virtuous and unassuming she was. There never appeared to be a father. An immaculate conception was the general opinion. And it would not be long after her birth for her to experience the sort of odd celebrity I had experienced my entire childhood, my entire life. By now we have wept together at least three times. I say, But you must, and pursue her in the fluttering, breathing darkness. I reach for her elbow, and when I get closer, even though she turns away, I take a hold of her wrist.
In the seventh second, I put the black light down to her hands. Under the black light, for just an instant, I can see, clear as day, that on each hand, Antonia has a prominent scar: a straight line running down from between two knuckles to a hole in the middle of her palm.
A pair of stigmata.
At this very moment, everything goes red, and from my third-floor flat to where we are now on the eighth, Beethoven sends a message that buzzes in my head: I tol dyou so.